Food Guilt and Why I’ll Never be Vegan

food guilt and why i'll never be veganCanada’s food guide was recently updated. It now includes more fruits and vegetables and less meat products. I think this is great. I want to eat this way, in theory. Unfortunately, this type of diet doesn’t work well for me. And I feel really bad about it.

I have IBS, and food allergies. If you’re not sure what IBS is, here’s a helpful explanation. To give you a quick lowdown on how it affects me, I get diarrhea. A lot. Like, everyday. I also experience painful cramps, everyday. Bloating, nausea, everyday. And I can feel my food being digested, something you aren’t supposed to be able to feel. It’s a fun ride. Because of this, I have developed a special diet over the last, nearly 20, years of my life. This diet is designed to be easily digested, and to limit gas and mucus production in my intestines. (Eww, I know.) On top of these special dietary requirements, I also have food allergies and sensitivities. Basically, eating is very stressful, and a potentially pain-filled situation for me. It also, unfortunately, prevents me from eating the diet I actually want to consume.

I think a lot about eating meat. I enjoy it, for the most part, though to be quite honest, it’s not my favourite thing to consume. I like chicken quite a bit, and I’ve recently been on a breakfast sausage kick. I often crave shrimp. But beef, and pork I can take or leave most of the time. I also like fish, but to be perfectly honest, we can’t afford to eat fish on a frequent basis. We can barely afford chicken.

I went to culinary school and I know what it means to butcher an animal. It’s sad. I hate it. I once had to de-bone a head-on rabbit for one of my classes. I couldn’t eat it afterward. I have watched many cooking programs where they are openly butchering animals. I watch because I eat meat. I should know what it means to take a life. I think about this a lot when I cook. I actively must put these thoughts aside when I consume meat because I must look after my health. I am an omnivore. I own it.

For those of you reading and asking yourself what the heck it is I do eat and why I can’t just quit meat and dairy, please take a look at the handy chart I’ve created that shows you the list of good and bad foods for my life and digestion. On a positive note, I recently have been able to add corn back into my diallergies and sensitivities_ gluten tomatoes eggplant soyet, thanks to the anti-depressants I am taking. Of course, living with IBS causes lots of anxiety, and I have been able to ease some of it with this medication. They say our emotions, mental health, and well being are connected to our guts. I am truly starting to believe it. Perhaps, in time, I’ll be able to add in more items I have eliminated from my diet.

I do eat a lot of vegetarian foods, not by design, but because that’s what I like to eat and often my breakfast or lunch end up that way. I eat a lot of carbs. They are easy to digest. My “bad days” meals consist of instant mashed potatoes with butter and salt, white rice with butter and salt, toast, cereal, soup, applesauce, bananas. Bland, bland, bland (and salty– apparently I need it). When I feel especially bad I crave olive juice (green olives preferred), peppermint tea, vanilla soft serve ice cream, lemon juice straight from the jar, and a lot of sleep. Yes, all of this is incredibly weird. I have learned that it is important to listen to my body. When you have had diarrhea all day, sometimes it is these cravings that get you back into balance.

I am making an effort to put more fruits and veg into my diet. But there will always be meat. It is hard for me to see people touting their vegan diet. I’d love to give it a shot, but it’s not worth the literal pain and suffering I would endure if I did. It makes me feel so guilty to eat meat. I want to save the planet, just like everyone else does. I want to help those who don’t have food. I’m just truly flummoxed as to how to accomplish this when I struggle to look after my own body every day. Not every diet is designed for every person and I wish we understood that more in our society. I can make small changes when I have the means to do so. Buy organic, free range, local food when I can. Eat more veg, fruit, nuts. But I also question the extremely processed nature of vegan products and wonder if they are really as healthy as they claim to be. I don’t know what is right. As a fat person, I have spent the majority of my life considering each thing that goes in my mouth. I feel bad for eating, I feel bad for existing. These feelings are compounded by my allergies and dietary restrictions. I love food too. I learned to cook professionally. It brings me joy and peace, confusion and guilt. If I could never eat again, I just might. Or I’d be like Captain Holt and just have a nutritious smoothie.

Until later. This fat woman is… still eating meat.

Author: fatwomenare

Bio: Whitney Sweet is a poet and writer of fiction. Her work has been included in A&U Magazine, as well as Mentor Me: Instruction and Advice for Aspiring Writers anthology. She is the winner of the 2014 Judith Eve Gewurtz Memorial Poetry Award. Her poetry will be included in the forthcoming Another Dysfunctional Cancer Poem Anthology (October 2018) and essays can be read in the Far Villages: Welcome Essays for New and Beginner Poets (2019) She is the creator and editor of T.R.O.U. Lit. Mag, a literary magazine dedicated to love and diversity. Whitney holds an MA in Communication and Culture from York University, as well as a BA in Creative Writing and English. When she isn’t writing you might find her laughing with her husband, napping, knitting, cooking, or petting her dogs.

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